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Northeast India: A hunter becomes father of two Catholic priests

John Khupkhanhau, a father of two Catholic priests (Photo by RVA News)

A hunter became the father of two Catholic priests. He is the first Zo tribe community to reach this rare privilege and the second in Manipur state of northeast India.

John Khupkhanhau, a father of two Catholic priests, created history in the Zo tribe community as he is the first person from whom the Church got two priests in the Zo community and the second to have two priests in the Manipur state of India.
He was born in the remotest village of Khuongtal bordering India-Myanmar on March 12, 1960, to Late Mr. Guizakam and Late Mrs. Kaizanou.
He grew up in a poor family and could not even attend proper education and hardly studied up to Grade 4.
As he was from a meager family, he became a hunter, fisherman and a farmer from a very young age to look after the family.
In those days, it was the custom that the only three main sources of income were fishing, hunting and farming.
Apart from his workload, he held youth leadership in the Church and the village for five years at a young age. 

Father Athanasius mung Zou and Father Anthony Sen with their mother Benedette Haukhannuam (Photo supplied)

At the age of 25 years, he married Benedette Haukhannuam at Khuongtal church in the same village.
As the years passed on with the blessing of God, the couple had 12 children, who are still healthy and are doing well. 

Due to poverty and for his children’s education, he migrated from one village to another village more than eight times. 

Despite the miserable life and odd married life, the couple happily took care of their a dozen children—with six sons and daughters each.

“Everything on earth is in God’s hand, we humans are nothing, it a seer grace of God that my two sons are now priests,” John said.

He further said that he sent three of his sons for seminary but the younger one could not complete due to his ill health. 

The two priest sons are Father Athanasius mung Zou (ordained priest in 2012 and presently serving as RVA ZO service coordinator); the second son is a young, dynamic, and cheerful priest—Father Anthony Sen (ordained in 2020, now posted as an assistant parish priest at St. George’s Catholic Church, Moreh).

All the girls are married in the village.  

All the sons with the parents (Photo supplied)

As a father, John struggled to meet both ends meet by hunting, fishing and farming. 

Amid his family's poor economic condition, he leads the church as a chairman for more than 25 years in his local Church. 

He also works for the Catholic family in the village and suburb villages. 

During his time, a priest used to visit the village once a year or maybe after five years. 

It can be mentioned that before the coming up of the Catholic Church in his area, his parents were nature worshipers and the people worshipped stones, trees, the sun and other things which they believed could save them from all kinds of evildoers.

In 1997, during India's military operation in Manipur, he bid farewell to his native village Khuongtal and came to a safer place called Singtom village under St. Joseph’s Parish, Sugnu in Archdiocese of Imphal, Manipur, northeast India.

John still settled and lives happily with the bonafide people of Singtom Village. His two sons became priests; two other sons serve in the Indian Army and the other two sons as entrepreneurs.  

sons, daughters, daughters-in-law and grand children of John (Photo supplied)

He now lives with his wife, children and grandchildren. He works for the people as a chairman of a government developmental project in the village. 

John is now old and weak but is active in animal farming. Since his childhood, he keeps ‘mithun’ (yard family), horses, pigs, chickens, dogs, pigs, and goats as his pet. 

At present, he has 15 goats as pets.

The couple never fails to say their evening praying rosary, attends church together and lives happily with grandchildren. 

In short, he is a hardworking man who feeds his family just by dint of hard work. He is a lover of pets and a generous man. 

Besides, taking care of his family, he used to feed 30-50 guests every month. 

Moreover, many homeless find their place in their home. Altogether more than eight people stayed with the family at different times due to economic reasons in John’s family.  

He still welcomes guests and he is still loved and known by many people. 

Villagers pray for the family and that they remain secure at the mercy of God. - Michael Gintungthang / RVA Zou Laa 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.